There’s a lot of bad out there.
The Steam Man of the Prairie is an interesting Steampunk idea by Joe R. Lansdale, setting us in the middle of a war with the baddies list from the works of H.G. Wells. Dealing with the walkers from War of the Worlds and a Dark Rider who leads a wild pack of Moorlocks from The Time Machine, the titular Steam Man is a Megazord for the 19th century with a wily and driven crew at the helm. This adaptation takes the work of a Steampunk classic and gives it a great rendition on a paneled page.
Mark Alan Miller is in charge of converting this novella onto the comic page and does a fantastic job of it. Knowing to let the visuals handle a large part of the exposition, Miller is free to adapt the speech and breathe life into the excellent characters. With quick quips and a snarky manner, this is Firefly with only the men and a giant metal robot instead of the ‘verse . . . and revenge instead of freedom. Okay, so the captain reminds me of Mal and it’s good, differences be damned. Miller makes Lansdale’s story solid, engaging, and tense, and I’m very excited to see where this story goes from here.
I really dig the artwork in this issue. Piotr Kowalski and Kelly Fitzpatrick do a phenomenal job at bringing this Antebellum Armageddon to life and manage to capture the period feeling really well. I find it a big result of Fitzpatrick’s palette which is muted and sepia-toned throughout. The browns and deep reds conjure that frontier essence, and Kowalski keeps the lines rounded and soft, evoking the stylistic trends of the time, when things weren’t as refined. All told, the artwork has created a vibrant world that draws you in, with characters expressing themselves wonderfully in every panel. Even the Steam Man takes on a mournful, plodding characterization, marching into the danger its masters bid it face.
There’s a lot to like here for Steampunk fans, obviously, but this would also interest fans of Firefly and more traditional Westerns. The sci-fi angle is not subtle, and the horror influence is undeniable. It’s fun to see a work mesh together disparate styles in such a conscientious and well-constructed way.
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